LGBT ′icon′ Phyllis Lyon dies | News | DW | 10.04.2020
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LGBT 'icon' Phyllis Lyon dies

Phyllis Lyon and her late wife were among the first same-sex couples to get married in the US state of California. She has passed away at the age of 95 after over 50 years of LGBT+ activism.

The US LGBT+ rights pioneer Phyllis Lyon (pictured above, right) died aged 95 on Thursday in San Francisco. Lyon and her wife were among the first same-sex couples to marry in the US state of California when it became legal to do so in 2008.

Lyon was a journalist and activist who, along with her late wife Del Martin, spent over 50 years campaigning for LGBT+ rights. She ran a social organization for lesbians in the 1960s and '70s as well as publishing a monthly magazine for LGBT+ people at a time when they faced general stigma in the US.

Read more: Brazil saw spike in same-sex marriage ahead of Bolsonaro presidency

"Before cellphones, they always had their phone number listed in the phone book in case any young or terrified LGBTQ person needed help or support," said Kate Kendall, a friend of Lyon's and former executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

"As we mourn the loss of our dear Phyllis, we find peace in knowing that she and Del are together again," said US House Speaker and San Francisco native Nancy Pelosi in a statement.

Happily married to Del Martin — twice

Although California only legalized same-sex marriage in 2008, the city of San Francisco decided to defy legal norms four years before that and issue marriage licenses to some same-sex couples. Current California Governor Gavin Newsom granted the illicit marriage license to Lyon and Martin in his then-role as mayor of San Francisco in 2004. He tweeted his condolences.

"Phyllis and Del were the manifestations of love and devotion," he wrote. "Yet for over 50 years they were denied the right to say two extraordinary words: I do."

A picture of the couple became a symbol of the movement around the world. Lyon and Martin remarried once it was officially recognized by the law in 2008. Martin died a few weeks later.

Read more: Why is homosexuality still taboo in many African countries?

Former Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris joined the tributes, writing "If the word icon ever meant anything it certainly applies to Phyllis Lyon."

Lyon's family and friends are planning a celebration of her life and achievements. She reportedly died of natural causes.

ed/rc (AP, dpa)

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